Was The Terminator shown in two differents formats? Running into an old 35mm film clip in our archives, we realised it didn't match with the currently available DVD and Blu-ray transfert. So we decided to check with, who else, the man who edited the film himself.
It was an old, dusty, decayed, color shifted clip, that had been resting in our archives for more than 25 years. While digitally restoring past issues of DVDvision for the iPad (coming back next month in the Apple App Store), we ran into a bunch of 35mm prints frames from James Cameron classic The Terminator (1984), and took an amusing look at them. Amusing, that is, until we realised something was a bit off about them. Not the obviously shifted color, (inevitable for badly stored 35mm prints), but the framing, looked wrong. Whatever this framing was, it was certainly not the film original 1.85:1 format.
So we decided to do some measurements, and to our astonishment, came up with the 1.66:1 format. Further comparison (see below) with the currently available reference DVD, clearly shows more of the frame top and bottom, but also left and right.
We knew the source was a genuine french (european), original 35mm theater release film print from 1985. So we decided to check with, who else, the man who edited the film himself, legendary editor (and director of cult films favorites Dead Heat and the original The Punisher) Mark Goldblatt.
"My guess is that this print was stuck from an unmasked 1:33 source". says Mr Goldblatt. "It was common in the eighties for film production companies and studios to forbid "hard-matting" in the camera, or even in the making CRIs or IP-INs (the printing elements from which release prints are derived). This also protected the full frame of the movie for television presentations (thus pan and scan wasn't necessary for non-anamorphic pictures)."
"Thus, in the U.S., a 1:33, or full aperture print, would be projected with a 1:85 matte, and in europe with a 1:66 matte (even though the movie was composed for 1:85). This system unfortunately allowed projectionists the option of mis-framing the presentation, if they weren't careful, resulting in cut-off heads of the actors, and in some cases boom microphones becoming visable, if they were visable above the 1:85 "safe" area. This is why we always tried to make sure that the boom microphones never entered the 1:33 frame (I don't believe that we had any in THE TERMINATOR.)"
If you saw The Terminator in Europe when it was first released, chances are you have seen a taller, 1.66:1 print instead of 1.85:1. As interesting as this previously unknown fact is thought, (who ever guessed that like some Kubrick films, T1 was also shown in different format in the theaters?), what really is of interest for film preservation purists in these two clips, should be the amount of detail and fine grain available in the picture, clearly visible despite the decayed color and jpeg compression of our scans. (click on the pictures for better quality versions). This should hopefully put an end to endless internet debate about The Terminator looking "drab" and "soft" and being "badly shot" and that it "will not look better on Blu-ray than the current disc" and that it was "low budget therefore not good looking". As the Terminator himself would says, "WRONG!".
As of today, The Terminator HD restoration, which have been done by Lowry Digital and Lightstorm, is still on hold pending finalising and release. As we can clearly see from the frames above, chances are it will look as good, if not better than the recently released Aliens restoration, with tons of fine looking grain and detail. Just be patient. He'll be back.